Bearded dragons are one of the most popular exotic pets. They’re docile, interesting, and quite fun to have around when you know how to take care of them. Aside from setting up your bearded dragon’s enclosure, the most crucial virtue for their health and survival is arranging the proper diet. Beardies depend on a mix of protein and plant-based meals, just like most of us, and their diet is required to be carefully followed. There are several plants beardies can safely eat, and even thrice of what they can’t and shouldn’t eat. This dilemma, suitably, is the topic of our discussion.
Beardies can eat plants like veggies, fruits, flowers, and herbs which provide most of the nutrients that are important for them to stay healthy and alive. The only known type of plant that is completely toxic to bearded dragons is mushrooms. They contain an immense level of oxalic acid and phosphorus which are a big no for beardies.
In this article, we’ll be evaluating the possible plants bearded dragons can and cannot eat so that you know which plant to avoid or feed to your pet. Let’s dive into it!
Do Bearded Dragons Need Plants In Their Diet?
Bearded dragons are omnivorous creatures and simply need plant matter to survive. There’s even a stage in their life cycles where greens are more important than protein food; when they reach maturity, 70% of their food ration is made of greens and the other 30% of proteins. This is because the mature dragon is no longer building muscles, so protein is not needed as much in its diet.
Green food provides your beardie with the majority of minerals and vitamins that are crucial for their survival and day-to-day activity. Without these minerals or vitamins, your pet will simply be unable to survive.
5 Reasons Why Bearded Dragons Need Plants To Survive
1. Plants provide essential vitamins for bearded dragons.
There are several vitamins that beardies cannot synthesize on their own, and neither can insects provide for them. So, they get those vitamins from plants! Such as vitamins A, B, C, K, E, and several other flavonoids.
2. Plants provide minerals for beardies.
Minerals are needed to help utilize and accumulate vitamins. They help to stabilize and regulate all the functioning systems in your beardie’s little body such as the digestive, circulatory, and nervous systems. Calcium is one of the most important minerals needed for the development of your pet’s bones, and although they get a certain amount from insects, it needs green food to complement that proportion.
3. Plants help beardies produce hormones.
Your pet needs several minerals and vitamins to synthesize or regulate the formation of hormones. Without greens, your dragon will either be unable to reproduce, or be severely abnormal, and dysfunctional.
4. Plants help to hydrate your bearded dragon.
If you know anything about beardies, you are surely aware that they’re not the biggest water drinkers out there. It can even be a struggle getting your dragon to take a few gulps. Beardies can use vegetables to hydrate their internal system and prevent constipation. You cannot rely on plants only for hydration, but it’s nice to know that your dragon is hydrated to a degree.
5. Bearded dragons enjoy and savor their greens.
It’s simply unfair not to feed your beardie the diet they require. Added to all the nutritional benefits of plants, beardies love their greens and the various ways it satisfies their taste buds – the different scents and textures give them something to look forward to when they eat. It’s not all the time that your pet would want crunchy, salty, or prickly grubs. Beardies are omnivores just like you, and would prefer their diet to be diversified accordingly!
The Toxic Substances Found In Plants That Are Dangerous For Beardies
Most of the plants beardies eat are regular foods you can eat yourself, but there are many that you eat that are terrible for your beardie to consume. That’s why it’s important to figure these toxins out before you engage in feeding your bearded dragon so that you don’t mistakenly feed your beardie a poisonous plant or feed them too many unsafe plants that it becomes toxic to their system.
Oxalic acid is an organic chemical that is usually synthesized biologically. This means that they’re not essential, but can be gotten from plants like rhubarb, spinach, beets, avocados, and mushrooms. Oxalic acid is not as harmful to you as it is to your bearded dragon because you have the proper means to excrete or manage the excess amounts. Your beardie, on the other hand, is not equipped with such a mechanism.
Oxalic acid is a calcium-binding chemical that will bind to calcium and create oxalates, thereby depriving your bearded dragon of utilizing the calcium it consumes. Directly or indirectly, the result is a metabolic bone disease. Oxalic acid is also fond of creating kidney stones formed from the oxalates causing impaction, infection, and kidney problems in beardies.
Persins are long-chain fatty acids that are dangerous to both humans and animals if consumed in relatively excessive amounts. They are majorly found in avocados but can be found in smaller amounts in fruits like shea butter and cashew nuts. Persins are highly toxic to bearded dragons; they attack normal metabolism, hinder the absorption and breakdown of minerals and vitamins, and interrupt the nervous system and its functions which would mostly lead to sudden and untimely death. An immediate raise in blood pressure is one of the symptoms of persin poisoning in bearded dragons.
Phosphorus plays certain roles in the daily metabolism of nutrients in bearded dragons. However, plants like cabbages, broccoli, radishes, and potatoes contain excessive phosphorus which is toxic for bearded dragons. Phosphorus, just like oxalic acid, is a calcium-binding element.
Excessive phosphorus reduces the amount of calcium that is needed for your beardie’s bones to grow strong and healthy. So, calcium in the plant needs to be twice the amount of phosphorus (2:1) for your beardie to safely consume it. If phosphorus constantly overshadows calcium, your bearded dragon will suffer from a calcium deficiency and then a metabolic bone disease.
Plants like kale, bok choy, horseradish, pineapples, avocados, peaches, and basil contain goitrogens that disrupt the normal formation of thyroid hormones. Just like phosphorus binding to calcium, goitrogens bind to the thyroid gland preventing iodine from stabilizing the production of the necessary hormones. This problem leads to abnormal growth of the limbs, tumors, and goiters which are all classified under hypothyroidism.
4 Safe Plants That Bearded Dragons Can Eat And Enjoy
Preparing a plant diet for your bearded dragon is pretty easy. As long as you take note of the substances listed above and avoid or understand how to regulate the plants that fall under those categories, you can provide your beardie with a safe and healthy green diet.
1. Vegetables (Staples)
Vegetables are regular beardie meals. In fact, beardies can’t survive without eating vegetables just as they can’t without eating protein. Veggies – at least some of them – are the safest category of plants you can feed your dragon that is saturated with all the minerals and vitamins it needs. This is the major reason why it’s a staple plant meal for all bearded dragons in captivity.
Examples of safe vegetables to feed your bearded dragon:
- Collard greens
- Mustard greens
- Dandelion greens
- Butternut squash
- Turnip greens
Examples of occasional vegetables to feed your bearded dragon:
- Sprouting lentils
- Bell peppers
- Green beans
2. Fruits (Treats)
Fruits are great sources of vitamin C (and dopamine) for bearded dragons. If you have any experience with beardies, you’d know just how much they love their fruits. In fact, bearded dragons have their fruit preferences and will actively seek more of their favorites in a salad. As much as you’d love to treat your beardie every day and see them saunter with joy, fruits are hazardous for them to eat often. They contain unsafe levels of phosphorus, acidity, and goitrogens that you must highly regulate to prevent your dragon from falling sick.
Once you know the kind of fruits to feed your beardie and which ones to avoid, you’d enjoy bonding with your dragon with treats now and then.
Here are some safe fruits good for bearded dragons:
3. Flowers (Treats)
Flowers are a great way to introduce nutrients into your beardie’s meal at the same time entice it to eat. The colors and contrasts of flowers are known to interest bearded dragons and appetize them. Still, flowers are delights and should be treated as one. It’s important to know your limits and not exceed them so that you don’t risk your pet’s health.
Examples of flowers your dragon can enjoy:
4. Herbs (Treats)
Aside from fruits and flowers, beardies also have herbs added to their variety of treats. Herbs are highly nutritious and most of them contain exponential levels of “safe” vitamin C that bearded dragons can consume without the dangers of acidity. However, they contain dangerous levels of phosphorus that are dangerous for their health. So, it’s highly crucial to feed these plants occasionally to your pet.
Examples of herbs beardies can safely consume:
The Proper And Safest Way To Feed Plants To Your Bearded Dragon
When you’re preparing the ultimate salad for your dragon, you must take account of the occasional and staple plants and just how to use them. You would need at most three staple vegetables sliced into bits to make the base salad, and then toppings like flowers, herbs, or fruits to entice your dragon and make feeding fun for it.
Another thing to take into account is the age of your bearded dragon; beardies would require a different amount of greens depending on their age. If your pet is still a baby, it would require fewer greens than protein meanwhile the reverse is the case for adult beardies.
The table below will guide you on how to feed your dragon greens.
|0 – 2 (Baby stage)
|30% greens, 70% grubs
|3 – 6 (Juvenile stage)
|30% greens, 70% grubs
|6 – 9 (Subadult stage)
|40% greens, 60% grubs
|9 – 18+ (Adult stage)
|70% greens, 30% grubs
Are Dried Plants Safe To Feed Bearded Dragons?
Dried veggies, fruits, and herbs are absolutely dangerous for bearded dragons. They are way too concentrated with vitamins and minerals, mostly high levels of phosphorus and unsafe acids, that will give your pet a tough time digesting. Your dragon could fall really sick from eating dried plants and so, should never ever be fed any.
Can I Feed My Dragon Cooked Greens?
Yams and butternut squash can be steamed to make it easier for dragons to swallow and digest. Remember not to overcook it else you’d be washing all the nutrients away. Other than those, your beardie should not be eating cooked greens at all. Every bite your pet eats should count with the proper nutrients in a way, and reducing or depleting its greens by cooking it goes against that motive.
Are Canned Greens Safe To Feed Bearded Dragons?
Canned food contains preservatives and other chemicals that your dragon should not be dealing with. It puts unnecessary stress on their digestive systems and would give them problems excreting it. Canned greens are simply not safe for your beardie to consume. It’s much healthier and preferable to stick to fresh plants so that your dragon is not exposed to digestive problems.