One of the most common questions I get on Instagram is, “My bearded dragon won’t eat greens. What am I doing wrong??!” Beardies refuse greens for different reasons, but as long as they’re still eating bugs, it’s easy to fix.
Reason #1: Age
Bearded dragons’ nutritional needs change as they grow. They need a lot of bugs in their first year of life to fuel rapid growth, so don’t be too concerned if they aren’t interested in vegetables yet. Greens can be an acquired taste, so one of the best ways to introduce your beardie is by keeping a bowl of fresh salad (finely chopped) in the terrarium at all times.
- Hatchlings (0-6 months old): Insects 2x/day, vegetables daily
- Juveniles (6-12 months): Insects 1x/day, vegetables daily
- Adults (12+ months old): Insects 1-2x/week, vegetables daily
Reason #2: Too Much Food
This is related to Reason #1. If your bearded dragon won’t eat greens, there’s a good chance that you’re feeding him/her too many bugs. After all, hatchlings should be getting 60-80% of their diet as bugs, juveniles need 50-60%, but adults only need 20-30%. If your dragon isn’t eating bugs, then that’s a diet of 100% bugs! See the problem?
Keep to a strict schedule with the bugs, and a dragon that is used to getting fed more often will have no choice but to try the salad.
Bearded dragons require hot surface basking temperatures between 105-115°F, as measured by a temp gun or a digital probe thermometer with the probe placed on the basking spot under the heat source. In terms of UVB, the average bearded dragon housed in a 4x2x2 enclosure needs an Arcadia or Zoo Med T5 HO Desert UVB bulb, long enough to span half of the enclosure, and positioned 12-16″ (30-40cm) away from the basking area, mounted on the underside of the mesh.
When a bearded dragon isn’t getting enough heat or UVB, it doesn’t have all of the energy that it needs for healthy digestion. This results in diminished appetite.
Reason #4: Boring Options
Bearded dragons have tastebuds just like we do, and so they also have taste preferences. If your bearded dragon won’t eat greens, and you’ve been offering the same thing for a while, mix it up! Try a different kind of greens or add fruit. Red or orange fruits are especially appealing.
Reason #5: Doesn’t Know What Salad Is
This is a common problem with rescue beardies who have only been fed bugs for years, so . Putting small insects in the salad, like mealworms or black soldier fly larvae (aka Phoenix worms or calcium worms) are bound to get your beardie’s attention. Eventually they will miss the bug and grab a leaf by accident. That will help them realize that greens are food.
What kinds of fruits and vegetables should be offered?
Certain fruits and vegetables are less nutritious than others, and can even be poisonous to bearded dragons. The following is a short list of safe options that should be rotated for maximum benefit. All fruits and vegetables should be offered in thin, bite-sized pieces.
- Bok choy
- Cactus pads
- Collard greens/Spring greens
- Mustard greens
- Mustard cress
- Pea shoots
- Spring mix
- Turnip greens
- Artichoke heart
- Beet leaves
- Bell pepper
- Carrot greens
- Cucumber, peeled
- Carrot, grated raw
- Clover (pesticide- and herbicide-free)
- Dandelion greens/flowers
- Lemon balm
- Mint leaves
- Rose petals
- Squash, raw
- Sugar snap peas
- Swiss chard
- Yam, grated raw
Fruits (to be used as occasional treats)
- Cactus fruit
For more information on bearded dragon nutrition, hop over to ReptiFiles’ bearded dragon care guide.
What is your beardie’s favorite fruit or vegetable?
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