Bearded dragons are omnivores, which means they eat both plant and meat based foods. If you own a Bearded Dragon you may be concerned about making sure your pet has enough variety in their diet. It’s great to make sure you offer an assortment of options, but do you know which food are actually bad for your bearded dragon to eat? In this article we’ll show you what not to feed Bearded Dragons and tell you why.
Some foods are harmful, too hard to digest, can make your dragon sick or are downright poisonous. It’s important to identify these foods and make sure you know what is safe for your bearded dragon to eat.
Bearded Dragons need a 2:1 Calcium to Phosphorus ratio in their diet to remain healthy. It is important that their calcium intake is higher than their phosphorus intake. For this reason foods high in phosphorus are dangerous to feed.
Foods high in oxalates are also dangerous because oxalates interfere with the dragons ability to absorb calcium, throwing off that important ratio. Other food items are dangerous because they contain compounds that are poisonous, may contain harmful microorganisms, or impair absorption of other vitamins and minerals.
Let’s dive into which foods are never okay for your Bearded Dragon, and which are ok but can only be fed as a rare treat.
What not to feed Bearded Dragons? – 21 foods that can be toxic
1. Onions and Chives
Onions, raw or cooked, should not be fed to bearded dragons. They are not only too acidic for your dragon’s sensitive digestive system, but they also contain other compounds that are not healthy. There is little research on the matter when it comes to reptiles, but onions have been proven time and again dangerous for other pets. So always keep onions away.
Mushrooms contain high phosphorus and acidic content and can be toxic to bearded dragons among ingestion. Some mushrooms may be less problematic than others, but unless you are a fungi expert it’s best to avoid all mushrooms.
Leeks are part of the onion family like chives, and they should not ingest them. It is thought that too many leeks can cause organ failure, although the exact quantity that causes this is unknown. So for now, leeks are on the can not eat list.
Garlic is in the same genus as onions, chives, & leeks, and therefore it is better to play it safe.
Rhubarb can be deadly to bearded dragons. It contains high levels of oxalic acid, enough to be poisonous to bearded dragons.
Avocados are toxic and can even be lethal to bearded dragons. They also contain oxalic acid. Oxalic acid binds to minerals like calcium and prevents your bearded dragon from being able to absorb them.
Eggplants, raw or cooked are way too acidic for a bearded dragon. So it’s better to be safe than sorry with this fruit. Too much could prove hazardous.
8. Iceberg lettuce
Iceberg lettuce made it on the list because of its lack of nutritional value. Your beardie could eat a lot of it and feel full, but be getting almost no nutrients from it whatsoever. Too much of this can lead to various vitamin deficiencies. It is also high in water, and eating too much could lead to diarrhea. This technically is ok to feed sometimes but your pet really isn’t getting anything out of it so might as well avoid it.
Buttercups are considered toxic to Bearded dragons and should not be allowed to eat. If you are looking for new food to try with your bearded dragon, they can eat dandelions.
10. Wild-Caught Insects
Do not give you bearded dragon wild insects. You may think it’s a great idea to catch your own bugs to save money and maybe rid your yard of pests, but they may be harmful. Many wild insects contain parasites that can be transmitted to your bearded dragon if they eat them. If you want to feed live insects always buy them from a reputable pet shop where they are screened for harmful parasites.
Fireflies contain toxins that are fatal to bearded dragons, and it doesn’t take much. They should never be allowed to eat fireflies. Sadly there have been many reports of reptiles dying from ingesting fireflies and other luminescent insects. It is believed the toxic element of these insects is in the chemicals that allow them to glow.
12. Box Elder Bugs
Box elder bugs are very toxic and can be fatal to bearded dragons.
Ladybugs like fireflies and box elder bugs are poisonous to bearded dragons. Be sure there are no spots in your bearded dragons enclosure they or any wild bug can get through.
14. Caterpillars and Butterflies
Caterpillars and butterflies may seem harmless but many can be deadly to bearded dragons. The problem is, they spend all day eating all sorts of different plants. Many of these plants have toxins in them that can be very dangerous for a bearded dragon. So while the dragon is not directly eating those toxic plants, by consuming the caterpillar or butterfly that did, it is still ingesting the same toxins.
15. Venomous insects
Insects such as wasps, scorpions, hornets, bees, centipedes and certain spiders are a no-go because they are venomous. Putting these live insects in your bearded dragon’s tank could cause them injury through biting or stinging. If the dragon ingests these insects it is also ingesting their toxic venom which could cause sickness and death.
16. Dairy products
Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt are not safe for Bearded Dragons because they do not produce the enzymes required to digest milk.
17. Acidic Fruits
Fruits like oranges, tomatoes, lemons, limes, grapefruit, pineapple, tangerines should never be fed or given rarely. The acidity in these fruits can be very high and can seriously upset the balance of the digestive tract. This can cause digestive problems such as runny stools for your bearded dragon.
18. Unsafe Plants
It is normal to want to add plants to your Bearded Dragon enclosure. Plants create a very naturalistic habitat. There are so many plants though, which plants are safe and unsafe? We found a good list from Sawnee’s animal clinic. You can find it here.
Foods to Feed Sparingly to Bearded Dragons
19. High Phosphorus foods
As we mentioned above, it is important to make sure bearded dragons do not have too much phosphorus in their diet. Potatoes (sweet or russet), corn and bananas are high in phosphorus. These items are ok to feed to your bearded dragon, but only in very small quantities.
20. High Oxalate Foods
Oxalates reduce the bearded dragons ability to absorb the calcium it needs. These foods aren’t otherwise poisonous and can be fed to your bearded dragon, but because they are higher in oxalates they should be fed very sparingly. Carrots, spinach, beets and beet greens, celery, kiwi, okra, parsley, radicchio, raspberries, yucca, chard and star fruit.
21. High Goitrogen Foods
Goitrogens are compounds that make it hard for your bearded dragon to absorb iodine. Iodine regulation is important to keep thyroid gland function normal and healthy. Foods with goitrogens are usually quite nutritious so you don’t necessarily need to avoid them completely. Just keep track of how much you are feeding and keep it down to small, less frequent portions. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, bok choy, turnips, rutabaga, peaches, plums, pears, strawberries, raspberries, cherries and apricots.
Best Foods for Your Bearded Dragon
We’ll cover everything you SHOULD be feeding your Bearded Dragon in another article, but for now we wanted to mention some options that are really healthy.
Some foods that are so good for your beardie that you can feed them every day are:
- collard greens
- mustard leaves
Other foods such as artichoke hearts, bell peppers, asparagus, apples, kale, mango, cantaloupe, watercress and pumpkin are also good and can be offered a few times per week.
Bearded dragons can make great pets, but knowing what to feed can be a little overwhelming. There is so much bearded dragons can eat that we could not list everything here. So if you are worried about variety, don’t be! Between vegetables, greens, fruits, insects, flowers and supplements there is a lot to choose from. Just make sure you do your research before introducing any new foods, and make sure your dragon isn’t coming into contact with wild insects that it might try and eat.
If your bearded dragon has ingested anything on this list, keep a close eye on them. Get some water in their system. If you can not use a syringe, you can try a bath. Water can help to flush some of the toxins out of your bearded dragon’s system. Call your local vet as soon as possible.
- “Bearded Dragon Diet,” Lilly Sawnee, Sawnee Animal Clinic, October 10, 2016, sawneeanimalclinic.com