So, you have taken the plunge and now you are the proud new owner of a baby bearded dragon, congratulations! From the best types of lighting and lamps to the most efficient water dish, you have more than likely absorbed an extensive amount of research and information in order to properly care for your bearded dragon.
If you have properly done your research then you have most likely looked into what and how often bearded dragons need to eat. A proper diet is of utmost importance for any bearded dragon, but especially for your baby bearded dragon.
Baby bearded dragons require a full and consistent diet in order to thrive and grow into full potential. So, what should you be feeding your baby bearded dragon to ensure proper growth and development?
Baby bearded dragons will need to consume large amounts of protein, some vegetation to promote a taste for veggies, high amounts of calcium, and, of course, water. When it comes to purchasing the appropriate style of protein for your baby bearded dragon, pet store shelves can be intimidating.
Due to the size of baby bearded dragons, they will require the smallest prey available to decrease the chance of choking. As a good rule of thumb, bearded dragons should not consume anything larger than the space between their eyes and any vegetation they receive should be finely chopped.
Baby bearded dragons have a much higher metabolism than that of an adult bearded dragon and require more frequent feedings packed with protein. A baby bearded dragon’s diet should consist of more protein than vegetation, usually around 60% protein and 40% vegetation.
Since baby bearded dragons require more protein and less vegetation than that of an adult bearded dragon, I’m sure you’re wondering what would be best to feed your baby bearded dragon.
Well, let’s dig into the satisfying world of a properly balanced diet for your beloved baby bearded dragon.
Category 1: Appropriately Sized Insects
Baby bearded dragons are aged from hatchling to 5 months and are quite small requiring several feedings per day. While you may normally feed your juvenile, 5 months to 18 months, or your adult bearded dragon superworms for their protein, superworms can sometimes prove to be too large for your baby bearded dragon to safely consume without choking.
When you take into consideration size, metabolism, and frequency regarding the diet of your baby bearded dragon, small crickets would be the most readily available for purchase and easiest for your baby beardie to consume and digest. On average, a baby bearded dragon will consume around 50 crickets a day, while that may seem like a lot, baby beardies should have 4 to 5 feedings a day consisting of around 10 to 15 crickets at a time.
Crickets, locusts, and hoppers would cause any bearded dragon to become excited, but for baby bearded dragons crickets would be much easier for their small jaws; just be sure to not place too many inside their enclosure as not all may be eaten and crickets are known to bite from time to time. I’m sure you have also noticed mealworms on the shelves in your local pet shop and while mealworms are much smaller than superworms, they are high in fat with little protein and their hard outer shells can cause impaction and could be a choking hazard for your baby bearded dragon.
Mealworms should only be given as a treat on occasion to larger bearded dragons and still given with caution. You should also avoid other insects as well, such as any insect that lights up or glows, like a lightning bug, as they can prove to be toxic and fatal to your bearded dragon.
It is also advised to not feed your bearded dragon insects caught wild from your yard or other similar areas as they could potentially be coated in pesticides or poison or even have parasites that could be passed on to your bearded dragon. As your baby bearded dragon grows in size and strength, you can start introducing heartier insects into their diet, such as the superworm, but remember to not feed your beardie anything larger than the space between their eyes.
Category 2: Vegetation
While insects consume the largest portion of a baby bearded dragon’s diet, vegetation can prove to be just as important but will only make up around 40% of your baby bearded dragon’s diet. Your baby bearded dragon will consume insects 4 to 5 times a day but they will only require vegetation once a day. If your baby bearded dragon refuses their greens, it is completely normal and is not concerning.
Baby bearded dragons will require time to properly acquire a taste for their veggies so it would prove beneficial to continue to serve your baby bearded dragon vegetation at least 4 times a week while they learn to enjoy the taste for vegetables. When it comes to vegetation, your baby bearded dragon may seem much pickier than they are with their insects and will require some trial and error to find which veggies they prefer; but which vegetables are considered healthy for bearded dragons?
Collard greens, dandelion greens, endive, mustard greens, yellow squash, and even cooked turnip greens can be tasty and healthy choices to start introducing to your baby bearded dragon. Vegetables like lettuce, spinach, or even avocados are a big no no to give to your bearded dragon, no matter what age they are.
Vegetation is an important staple for bearded dragons for the added nutrients it offers as well as its hydration abilities, which is key for any healthy animal.
Category 3: Supplementation
Calcium and vitamin D3 is probably one of the most important parts of any bearded dragons diet but are not naturally found in large quantities in their food. Luckily, you can purchase this vitamin and mineral in a powder that can be dusted over your bearded dragon’s food. Your baby dragon will receive some vitamin D3 from their light source but not enough so it is important to provide them with a supplement during every feeding until they reach juvenile age then you can start decreasing that amount.
Bearded dragons require vitamin D3 to help them absorb calcium and if they are unable to absorb calcium properly then they can develop metabolic bone disease which will cause them great pain and shorten their lifespan. Ensuring that your baby bearded dragon is receiving the appropriate amount of calcium and D3 is as simple as seasoning your own, put a small amount in a plastic bag or container with their insects and shake, this will evenly coat their meal and provide the most efficient way to serve them their vitamins and minerals.
Category 4: Hydration
It is imperative for your baby bearded dragon to remain hydrated at all times but they may not want to drink from a water dish just yet. If you are ever concerned about the amount of water your baby bearded dragon is consuming there are a few different tricks to try before calling the vet; ensuring the water dish is always clean and doesn’t contain any waste, placing some bright vegetation or a cricket or two in their water dish which will cause your bearded dragon to ingest some water while eating, misting your baby bearded dragon’s vegetation before serving, or misting your baby bearded dragon’s head and body.
Dehydration is a common issue that many inexperienced bearded dragon owners will face but don’t be discouraged as there are ways to assist your baby beardie in consuming their water. By following the above tips and ensuring that their water dish is shallow enough to prevent the possibility of drowning and changing daily, keeping your baby bearded dragon should be a relatively simple task.
As the new owner and caregiver of a baby bearded dragon, your number one priority is ensuring their health and providing an appropriate and well balanced diet, which can seem like a lot to take in but will prove to be quite simple. Understanding that just because an item like superworms are so readily available at most pet shops for bearded dragons, it doesn’t mean that they will always be the most appropriate insect for your baby bearded dragon.
Remembering that as long as the insect or veggie is not larger than the space between their eyes, it should be perfectly safe to feed your baby bearded dragon. As they grow in size and become stronger eaters, larger prey and bites of vegetation can be introduced into their diets around the juvenile stage.
While it is more common to purchase a juvenile bearded dragon from a pet shop than a baby dragon, if you are breeding or find yourself caring for a much younger bearded dragon the tips and dietary guidelines in this article are just what you need to ensure your baby bearded dragon gets the best start at a long and healthy life. If at any time you are concerned about your baby bearded dragon’s diet or their health, contact your local herp vet to discuss any questions you may have.