Best Live Food to Feed Bearded Dragons

Meeting your bearded dragon’s dietary demands is vital to their health and well-being; in order to do so, you have to give them a balanced diet that includes dead and live feeders.

You might see the words “live feeders” and think that you don’t even know where to start, don’t worry! In this post, you’ll find some of the most popular live foods for bearded dragons.

There are various factors to consider when it comes to your dragon’s health and well-being; the numerous nutritional ingredients that make up the various choices all have a role in helping your dragon thrive. So let’s get right into it!

How often should I feed my bearded dragon live food?

The amount of food you need to feed your bearded dragon can be different depending on their age. Here’s how often you should feed your baby and adult bearded dragon.

Baby bearded dragon:

Baby dragons will need to be fed live food twice or three times a day, every day. This should be enough live insects for them to eat in about 10 minutes. Baby dragons require a diet consisting primarily of live food. They should be fed live food on a daily basis until they reach the age of 4 to 6 months.

Baby bearded dragons have a strong appetite. This might be costly at first since live food must be purchased from a reputable reptile food store. You may, however, breed your own, which will be less expensive.

They should have access to fresh lush green veggies in the tank all day. They are free to pick at them anytime they choose. But, don’t be shocked if the majority of this goes to waste. Fortunately, they will not need much food at a time, and leafy green veggies will do the trick.

Adult bearded dragon:

Adult metabolism needs differ from those of babies. Adult bearded dragons do not require as much protein as their younger counterparts. Of course, they still need protein, and live food remains a significant part of their diet.

Your bearded dragon should be given live insects two to three times a week.  They go on to say that they should consume as many as they want in 10 to 15 minutes.

Since wild dragons will not have access to as much food, many captive dragons will become fat. On a daily basis, wild dragons will get much more exercise than many confined dragons. Obesity can cause a number of health problems, including fatty liver, renal issues, and respiratory problems.

Feed live food once or twice a week, with a focus on maintaining a healthy weight for your dragon. On their scheduled “live food days”, they just need one feeding session. Instead of counting how many times you should feed them, go by their weight. If they’re underweight, they’ll need more “live food days” than if they were overweight. So adjust the days accordingly.

Based on its length, an adult bearded dragon will weigh between 300 and 500 grams. The fat pads on their head and at the base of their tail should be visible, according to a decent rule of thumb. They shouldn’t have a lot of fat on their stomach area, but a little bit of chubbiness is okay.

What’s the right ratio of vegetables and live food?

Bearded dragons need both vegetables and live food to survive. The ratio of live food to vegetables depends on your bearded dragon’s age. Adult beardies need more vegetables because too much protein could lead to obesity and other issues. On the other hand, baby bearded dragons need more meat so they can grow faster and stronger.

Baby bearded dragons should have an 80:20 for insects and greens. Meaning you should feed a baby beardie mainly insects with a little bit of fruits and vegetables on the side.

For juvenile bearded dragons, there should be a 50:50 mix for both insects and vegetables. Since baby bearded dragons have mainly insects and adults have vegetables, juveniles lie somewhere in the middle between these two.

Adult bearded dragons should be fed 80:20 of vegetables and live insects. This prevents them from getting any kind of serious health issue from eating too much protein.

What should be the size of the live food I feed my bearded dragon?

Even though bearded dragons might be more than happy to devour whatever size insect you give them, you won’t be able to digest them properly. This could lead to serious health conditions such as impaction, or even death.

You can feed your bearded dragon any insect that is smaller than the distance between your bearded dragon eyes. Meaning you will need smaller insects for baby bearded dragons and vice versa.

Some people say that insects shouldn’t be longer than the width between the beardie’s forehead. However, this is not the case. Bugs shouldn’t be broader than the area between their eyes.

Live food you should feed your bearded dragon regularly

Here are some of the insects that you can feed your bearded dragon on a regular basis. You should always have these on hand since they will probably become a major part of the bearded dragon’s diet.

Dubia roaches

dobia-roaches

Dubia roaches, unlike crickets, can’t bite or fight back, so your beardie will be safe even if you are not present. These feeding insects can’t jump or climb smooth surfaces, and they can’t fly despite having wings.

So, provided your enclosure is properly locked and sealed, there is no way out. Is it possible for dubia roaches to infest your home? No, you won’t have to worry about waking up to a roach-infested house if your feeders escape throughout the night.

While they will not breed, they can survive at room temperature and ordinary humidity, so you should be able to retain them unless you live in a dry or cold climate. Buying a month’s worth of feeder roaches, putting them in a basic dubia roach enclosure, and just ordering more when you run out is a good strategy.

These cockroaches are easy to digest and come in all different shapes and sizes. They are also pretty easy to find through pet shops and online stores. They barely make any noise and they don’t really have much of a smell at all.

Nutritional Information:

  • Moisture: 71.5%
  • Protein: 21.4%
  • Fat: 3.1%
  • Ash: 1.3%
  • Fiber: 2.6%
  • Calcium: 700 mg/kg
  • Phosphorus: 2600 mg/kg

Crickets

crickets

Crickets have always been a common feeder insect for Bearded Dragons because they provide a good source of protein and calcium. They are also easily accessible at pet shops and to a lesser extent, online retailers too. Never purchase crickets from bait shops to feed your dragon because they are more likely to carry viruses and bacteria than crickets that are bred for feed.

Since some parts of the crickets, such as the rear legs, can be difficult for dragons to digest, always provide appropriate fluids while feeding them.

Crickets have a reputation for being difficult to keep, as well as jumping out of the container whenever you open it, being extremely noisy, having a terrible odor, and being quickly killed. If you choose to feed crickets, you must make sure that you are getting your Bearded Dragon a regular fecal exam every 6 months, unless there are signs of parasites such as fatigue or lack of appetite, in which case you must arrange for an appointment.

Nutritional information:

  • Moisture: 77.1%
  • Protein: 15.4%
  • Fat: 3.3%
  • Ash: 1.1%
  • Fiber: 2.2%
  • Calcium: 275 mg/kg
  • Phosphorus: 2520 mg/kg

Superworms

superworms

When fed with other staples, superworms are a good feeder insect. They have a somewhat higher fat content than waxworms, but your dragon can eat ten of these per day with no difficulty if provided alongside a less fatty staple like Dubia Roaches.

They’re sometimes confused for big mealworms, but they’re not. In addition to being nutritionally superior to mealworms, their outer casing is soft, and their shell is known as chitin, which makes them simpler to digest. For this reason, superworms can be given to any dragon, regardless of age, as long as they are the right size.

Superworms should not be consumed by baby bearded dragons. Many veterinarians and reptile experts give this advice. Baby bearded dragons should never be given insects that are too large for them, and the best alternative is to give small, correctly sized pinhead crickets and other insects.

Feeding food in large pieces can result in gastrointestinal issues.

Although the large calories and fat content help growth, they can also lead to major health problems.

Nutritional information:

  • Moisture: 57.9%
  • Protein: 19.7%
  • Fat: 17.7%
  • Ash: 1.0%
  • Fiber: 2.7%
  • Calcium: 177 mg/kg
  • Phosphorus: 2370 mg/kg

Silkworms

silkworms

Silkworms are a rare feeder insect that provide a good source of calcium but are poor in protein for your dragon. They do, however, have a soft outer shell that makes them simpler to digest.

Silkworms are tough to come by; I’ve never seen them in a pet store, but they can be purchased online at specialized vendors, making them impractical as an everyday feeding.

Silkworms are fed a nutrient-dense diet, so there’s no need to worry about gut loading because they’ll have eaten a good meal minutes before eating! I wouldn’t suggest dusting silkworms if you are dusting other feeder insects. Powders don’t stick to their slick exterior very well. Although, you can dust any other feeder insects that your beardie eats.

Nutritional information:

  • Moisture: 82.7%
  • Protein: 9.3%
  • Fat: 1.1%
  • Ash: 1.1%
  • Fiber: 1.1 %
  • Calcium: 177 mg/kg
  • Phosphorus: 2370 mg/kg

Locusts

desert-locust

Locusts grow to be extremely big, but they are much quieter than crickets. Bearded dragons enjoy them, and we’ve fed ours a lot of locusts. They’re a wonderful source of protein and moisture. They can grow to be too large for babies and juveniles. Their exoskeleton also has some hard parts, putting the baby bearded dragon at risk of impaction.

Never feed a baby dragon anything that won’t fit between their eyes as a rule of thumb. The locust’s body should fit between your bearded dragon’s eyes lengthwise. If you’re feeding locusts to your bearded dragon, it’s critical to keep the temperatures consistent. The right temperature helps your bearded dragon digest its food and limit the chance of impaction from the exoskeleton.

Some places, like the United States, do not allow the import or keeping of locusts, but the United Kingdom does, and they are a decent staple live food.

Nutritional information:

  • Moisture: 70%
  • Fat: 11.5%
  • Protein: 22.0%
  • Ash: 3.6%

Phoenix worms

black-soldier-fly-larvae

Phoenix worms are high in calcium and have a high protein content, making them a suitable feeder insect. Phoenix worms are a great option for a calcium boost for a dragon; they can be used in place of a powder calcium supplement without D3, but you’ll still need to provide a calcium supplement with D3.

Because of their tiny size and maggot-like appearance, they are best given to younger dragons who will enjoy them; however, using them as a feeder for grown-up dragons can be inconvenient; because of their small size, you could find that your larger dragons are not interested, and the amounts you would have to buy and ensure that they ate would be impractical.

They only need to be kept in the container they arrived in and not fed, so they are pretty simple to care for.

Nutritional information:

  • Moisture: 61.2%
  • Protein: 17.5%
  • Fat: 14%
  • Ash: 3.5%
  • Fiber: 3%
  • Calcium: 9340 mg/kg
  • Phosphorus: 3560 mg/kg

Treats to feed your bearded dragon occasionally

Mealworms

mealworms

Mealworms are a common feeding bug for bearded dragons. They can reach a length of roughly two inches and have a strong outer shell known as chitin. The chitin can be difficult for young bearded dragons to consume. Due to the risk of impaction, only mealworms feed adult bearded dragons.

Mealworms should only be used as an addition to other insects. For an adult bearded dragon, five to six mealworms every feeding should suffice. A bearded dragon’s digestion may be affected if it eats too many mealworms and is constantly overfed. If this happens, bearded dragons may be unable to digest their food properly, resulting in the presence of undigested feeder insects in their feces.

Nutritional information:

  • Moisture: 61.9%
  • Protein: 18.7%
  • Fat: 13.4%
  • Ash: 0.9%
  • Fiber: 2.5%
  • Calcium: 169 mg/kg
  • Phosphorus: 2950 mg/kg

Waxworms

waxworms

Waxworms are a feeder insect that can be fed to your pet dragon as a staple, although they should be eaten alongside a less fatty staple such as Dubia Roaches because of their high fat content. If your dragon is overweight, obese, or has other health difficulties, you should avoid giving them waxworms, and you should limit your dragon’s waxworm intake to no more than 2-3 per day, along with your other less fatty essentials.

Waxworms may be found almost everywhere that sells feeders; online vendors and pet stores both stock them on a regular basis. Keeping them alive by keeping them in the container they came in somewhere cold and dry is quite simple.

Waxworms can easily be found at most pet stores and online shops. They’re easy to keep and can last up to a couple of weeks with the proper storage.

Nutritional information:

  • Moisture: 58.5%
  • Protein: 14.1%
  • Fat: 24.9%
  • Ash: 0.6%
  • Fiber: 3.4%
  • Calcium: 243 mg/kg
  • Phosphorus: 1650 mg/kg

Hornworms

hornworm

Goliath Worms, sometimes known as hornworms, are common insect feeders and a popular choice. They can be given as a staple insect if eaten with another staple insect, such as Dubia Roaches, which have a high water content.

One of the most well-known characteristics of Goliath worms is that they grow very quickly, reaching a maximum length of roughly five inches under certain conditions. Even if these worms were very little, to begin with, they can develop to their full size in only a few days under the correct conditions. If your dragon is small or you only have one or two dragons, you may need to feed them off rapidly in order to avoid any kind of wastage.

Because of their high moisture content, hornworms are commonly used as a hydration booster when needed; however, you must be careful not to feed them too much or you risk giving your dragon diarrhea.

Nutritional information:

  • Moisture: 85%
  • Protein: 9%
  • Fat: 3.07%
  • Calcium: 464 mg/kg
  • Phosphorus: 1394 mg/kg

Pinky mice

pinky-mice

Some people feed pinky mice to their bearded dragons, despite the fact that they are not insects. They’re a great supply of calcium and protein, as well as a good amount of moisture. Because of their size, they are not suited for an infant or for juvenile dragons.

Bearded dragons should not be fed live adult or juvenile mice. They could retaliate and inflict serious injury. I don’t think feeding pinky mice to a dragon is a good idea, but some do, and that’s ok. That one, it’s entirely up to you! I’d just practice caution while feeding them.

If you feed your bearded dragon pinkie mice too frequently, it may get chubby. Obesity is a serious issue among captive bearded dragons. They aren’t aware of the situation. They don’t receive as much activity as a wild bearded dragon and will gain weight as a result.

If you have a female that has just produced eggs, they might be a good source of protein and calcium. This is probably the only occasion I’d recommend pinkie mice as a food source. Even so, not in large numbers or for lengthy periods of time.

Nutritional information:

  • Protein: 1.7%
  • Fat: 47%
  • Calcium: 5 mg/kcal
  • Phosphorus: 2.2 mg/kcal

Earthworms

earthworms

You might be tempted to go out into the garden and dig up some earthworms for your bearded dragon. This is particularly appealing if you are short on funds and have run out of food.

Earthworms can be eaten by bearded dragons, and they have a high moisture content and calcium content. They are, however, wild and susceptible to the same defects as wild insects, such as poisons and parasites.

Earthworms, on the other hand, may be purchased at fishing bait shops and pet stores and can be used to add variety to the diet. Before being eaten, they’ll need to be washed under clean water to remove any soil or substrate. It’s also essential to make sure the earthworms aren’t dyed, especially if you buy them from a fishing bait shop.

However, we don’t suggest purchasing earthworms from a fishing bait shop. Earthworm parasites aren’t a concern for fishermen. Earthworm parasites, on the other hand, are an issue for your bearded dragon.

Nutritional information:

  • Moisture: 83.6%
  • Fat: 1.60%
  • Protein: 10.5%
  • Ash: 0.6%
  • Calcium: 444 mg/kg
  • Phosphorus: 1590 mg/kg

Butterworms

Butterworms are a popular choice for Bearded dragons due to their scent and bright coloration, but they contain a lot of fat, so they’re better for snacking. Butterworms are a Chilean native that won’t be found in many other nations. Since they are hard to grow in confinement, butterworms will only be accessible as an imported product in the majority of the countries that export them.

Butterworms are quiet, slow-moving, odorless, low-maintenance, and take up a minimal amount of space. Butterworms can be kept in this stage for a long time, but after that time, some of their nutritious content begins to deteriorate. Butterworms can be kept refrigerated for up to four months at temperatures between 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. To survive, they require a dry environment.

Nutritional information:

  • Moisture: 60.2%
  • Protein: 15.5%
  • Fat: 29.4%
  • Ash: 0.8%
  • Fiber: 1.4%
  • Calcium: 125 mg/kg
  • Phosphorus: 2250 mg/kg

Live food you cannot feed your bearded dragon

Fireflies

fireflies

Bearded dragons are killed by toxins found in fireflies, and it doesn’t take much. It’s never a good idea to let them eat fireflies. Unfortunately, many reptiles have died as a result of consuming fireflies and other glowing insects. The poisonous aspect of these insects is thought to be in the compounds that allow them to glow.

Caterpillars or butterflies

caterpillars or butterflies

Although caterpillars and butterflies appear to be harmless, many of them can be deadly to bearded dragons. The issue is that they consume a variety of plants all day long. Many of these plants contain chemicals that can be extremely harmful to a bearded dragon. While the dragon is not directly eating the hazardous plants, it is taking the same chemicals by swallowing the caterpillar or butterfly that did.

Poisonous insects

poisonous-insects-not-to-feed-bearded-dragon

Wasps, scorpions, hornets, bees, centipedes, and some spiders are all poisonous and should be avoided. By putting these live bugs in your bearded dragon’s cage, you risk injuring them by biting or stinging them. If the dragon eats these insects, it will also eat their venom, which might make it sick or kill it.

Ladybugs

ladybug

Ladybugs are harmful to bearded dragons, so, they shouldn’t consume them. If your bearded dragon eats one by mistake, it will most likely be alright. But you should set traps to catch ladybugs if you have a lot of them in your residence so the beardie doesn’t eat too many of them.

Ants

ants

Ants should not be eaten by bearded dragons. This is because of the fact that they create Folic Acid as a natural defense, which may hurt your Beardie, they also have low calcium to phosphorus ratio.

Should I feed my bearded dragon insects caught in the wild?

Whether you buy live insects or canned insects, it’s gonna cost a lot in caring for your Bearded Dragon. This added expense may tempt you to feed them free-of-cost insects obtained in the garden.

However, Insects that fly around in the garden typically have a number of threats that you probably aren’t aware of. The first issue is that chemicals from farms and other people’s gardens have contaminated these insects.

If your Dragon consumes pesticide-coated insects, it may become very sick. The second reason is that parasites are quite frequent in insects that aren’t purposely farmed. The parasites may not be visible, but they are easily passed to your Bearded Dragon and can cause a multitude of issues.

If you feed your Dragon insects discovered in the garden and they develop either of these issues, it will cause a lot of pain for your Dragon as well as a costly trip to the veterinarian. Any money you saved on farmed insects would be eaten up by those vets!

Where do I put live insects?

Feeder insects are available from a variety of pet stores and online stores. Feeder insects may also be ordered on a monthly basis at some shops. The majority of worms and larvae feeding bug species will arrive in a suitable container.

Crickets and locusts can be housed in a cricket cage or similar plastic container. They’ll need a way to stay hydrated, this will in return help keeping your bearded dragon hydrated. Bug gel is the best source of water. It’s not a good idea to put a bowl of water in the container. Insects are clumsy and will drown if they fall into a dish.

When you notice any dead insects in the feeder container, remove them immediately. Feeding your bearded dragon dead insects is not a good idea. They’ll be dehydrated and deficient in nutrition. They’re not going to be that appetizing either!

How to gut load an insect before feeding it to your bearded dragon?

A bearded dragon’s diet is heavily reliant on insect prey. The main issue with insect feeders is that they do not provide all of the nutrients that a bearded dragon requires on its own.

Feeder insects have to get a boost of vitamins and minerals in order to deliver them to your bearded dragon during feedings. Gut loading is the process of providing important nutrients to your feeder insects.

You may dramatically increase a bearded dragon’s nutrition intake of important vitamins and minerals by gut loading insect feeders. To gut load them, place them in a container with tropical fish food, wet/dry puppy food, or instant baby food on the ground.

Commercial gut load products designed exclusively for gut loading feeder insects are also available. For gut loading insects, Fluker’s High Calcium Cricket Feed and JurassiDiet Cricket Gut Load are two great options. You’ll see the bugs eating on the morsels as soon as they’re placed in the food-filled container.

As a water supply, use tiny pieces of raw vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes. Orange slices may also be used as a supply of water and a source of vitamin C.

Allow 48 hours for the feeders to absorb the food before giving them to your bearded dragon. This will give them more than enough time to eat all of the nutrients that your bearded dragon needs. Gut loading is a great way to guarantee that your bearded dragon receives all of the vitamins and minerals it needs to live a long and healthy life.

How to feed your bearded dragons live insects

One at a time:

While it might seem inconvenient, putting live insects one by one into the cage with a small set of tongs is a great way to give them to your beardie. This strategy is particularly useful for feeding baby beardies, who might not be able to follow and attack many live preys before fleeing and hiding in the cages fixtures or burying themselves in the substrate. 

Not to mention that when a baby bearded dragon is given a large number of insects at once, it might become too excited, leading to overeating. This is dangerous since babies are prone to being overweight.

Free them all:

For fully grown dragons or older juvies, putting all the insects in the tank is a good option. It works best in terrariums coated with a special reptile carpet or similar alternative to substrate, because live prey (particularly worms) can bury themselves before being captured, putting your dragon at risk of eating both the good and the bad.

If you use this technique, all you have to do is gather the number of insects you want to feed in your breeding house using a plastic cup or egg carton pieces, sprinkle them with calcium powder, and shake them into the enclosure.

Feeding dish:

Another alternative is to throw a few bugs at a time into a veggie-filled feeding bowl or a water bowl like this,  making a protein-rich salad for your pet. Because bearded dragons have a never-ending appetite and eat quickly, this is a great method to control their intake without having to place the insects in one by one. This works especially well for juvenile dragons who are still learning how to hunt.

Conclusion

Figuring out which live insect to feed your bearded dragon can be difficult at first, however with the right information this task will no longer be that difficult, and you can feed your beardie the best live insect for its health!

About Tariq Aziz

I am working as Chief editor at MY BEARDIES. I have been working in the publishing business for over a decade now. I love reptiles and I love talking about them. I have years of experience in herpetoculture. I have cared for many reptiles including bearded dragons, geckos, and skinks since childhood.

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