Bearded dragons need calcium in their diet to promote healthy growth and prevent bone disease.
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- What are the best calcium supplements for bearded dragons?
- Do you need one with Vitamin D?
- How do you feed it to your dragon?
- What are the signs of calcium deficiency?
- Is calcium overdose a risk?
Do Bearded Dragons Need Calcium Powder?
Yes, calcium is a tricky vitamin for reptiles because their bodies do not readily metabolize or absorb calcium from their diets. Vitamin D3 is needed to help their bodies absorb calcium and UVB light in turn is needed to synthesize vitamin D3. Often, calcium powder is needed to help supplement this vitamin in the diet of your bearded dragon to help prevent illnesses such as Metabolic Bone Disease and ensure the growth of healthy bones especially for growing bearded dragons.
What Does Calcium Do For My Bearded Dragon?
Calcium is needed by bearded dragons for many metabolic functions in their bodies such as: skeleton formation, muscle contraction, blood clotting, and bone matrix mineralization. It is especially important in a dragon’s growth phase as babies and juveniles (0-8 months of age) to aid in bone formation and prevent metabolic bone disease (MBD). MBD can lead to bone deformities, scoliosis, fractures, and overall poor health.
What Should You Look For In A Calcium Supplement?
The best calcium powders are finely ground for ease in application or dusting on feeder insects and to avoid any gut impaction issues. It is also recommended that calcium powders are phosphate free as phosphorus is usually readily available in the normal diet of bearded dragons. Additional phosphorus supplements may throw off the calcium phosphorus ratio in your dragon’s diet.
You may or may not opt for calcium powders with vitamin D3. If you are sure that your bearded dragon gets enough UVA/UVB light from a strong UV light source and/or your dragon spends a good amount of time outdoors under natural sunlight, then you may not need additional vitamin D3 with your calcium powder. This ensures that you don’t overdose. However, for completely indoor pets, a calcium powder fortified with vitamin D3 is recommended. You can also alternate between these two variants.
Fluker’s Repta Calcium With Vitamin D3
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Zoo Med Reptile Calcium Without Vitamin D3
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Fluker's Reptile Calcium Supplement Without Vitamin D3
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Rep-Cal Calcium WITH Vitamin D3
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Exo Terra Calcium Liquid Spray Without Vitamin D3
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Best Bearded Dragon Calcium Supplements With & Without Vitamin D3
Many reptile owners with picky bearded dragons swear by this so it’s a great choice if your dragon doesn’t like the regular calcium dust. This makes sure your beardie will get enough calcium since it is also fortified with Vitamin D3 and is a tasty option to boot.
Fluker’s produces its powder in the US and it’s available in 2 or 4-ounce options so you can easily stock up on your needed supplements. It’s made with real strawberries and bananas, no artificial junk.
We recommend starting with the smaller size to see if your beardie likes it.
Zoo Med is a tried and trusted brand for reptile care and their supplements are no different. This is a quality yet affordable pure calcium supplement with no impurities since it’s not made from oyster shells. It’s also very finely ground which allows it to be absorbed easily and prevents any gastrointestinal issues for your beardie.
This is great for dragons who get a good supply of UV light from natural sunlight or a good, strong mercury vapor bulb as a source of their UVA/UVB light for vitamin D3 synthesis.
Fluker’s is another staple brand name in the reptile community providing great quality, affordable products. Their calcium supplements are no different since they are made from high quality, natural minerals.
This calcium supplement is recommended for reptiles that get adequate amounts of UVB light from a powerful source (e.g. Mercury Vapor Bulb) or those kept for some time outdoors under natural sunlight.
Another popular brand among reptile enthusiasts is Rep-Cal’s supplements. It’s easily accessible and quite popular among owners. This Rep-Cal Calcium Supplement is the ultrafine variety and is well-milled so you don’t have to worry about any digestion issues for your beardie.
It’s a naturally sourced, phosphorus free, calcium carbonate supplement (from oyster shells) with added vitamin D3. Though this might pose a preference problem for some who prefer “pure” calcium carbonate, there is no effectivity difference between naturally sourced and synthetic calcium carbonate.
This Exo-Terra liquid calcium supplement is worth mentioning for its high absorption because it’s supplied in liquid spray form. It passes directly into the small intestine due to its liquid form. Calcium powders have a slower absorption rate. Application is easy. Simply spray it onto insects, vegetables, and greens. It is also an excellent alternative to calcium powder for picky eaters who don’t like dusted feeder insects.
This is also great to have as an alternative or a quick source of calcium if your bearded dragon needs a boost.
How To Feed Calcium to Your Dragon
Dust moist food (e.g. vegetables or salads) and feed them first to ensure that your dragon consumes them. Make sure not to over dust since it can make the food unpalatable for your beardie.
Alternatively, feeder insects such as crickets and worms can be gut loaded with calcium rich food and/or supplements such as calcium carbonate at least 24 hours before feeding to bearded dragons.
Dusting insects in a coffee can or a Ziploc back as seen in the video are all great duster methods.
How Often Does My Bearded Dragon Need A Calcium Supplement?
Hatchlings should get supplements every day while juveniles need it in their diet every other day to ward off MBD. As adults, calcium supplements should be given once a week. Reproductively active females should be given supplements 3-4x a week.
Remember to provide the proper lighting for your pet in addition to these supplements. Proper absorption of calcium will only occur if your bearded dragon gets a 12 hr supply of UVA/UVB rays from specialized fluorescent lighting every day to help them with their vitamin D3 synthesis. Vitamin D3 is needed to help absorb calcium.
If your adult bearded dragon is getting natural sunlight at least once a week and you have a good UVB light source, you can adjust your calcium with vitamin D3 supplements to less.
A good technique would be to alternate dustings between plain calcium and calcium with vitamin D3 to ward off overdose as well.
Signs Of Bearded Dragon Calcium Deficiency
Signs of calcium deficiency (hypocalcemia) in bearded dragons show as muscle spasms at first. You may notice your dragon being more excitable or twitching, having abnormal movement, paralysis or disorientation, seizures, spinal and/or bone deformities, fractures, soft bones, lethargy, constipation, prolapse or bulging of the cloaca (“anus”), and eventually death.
Prolonged calcium deficiency will eventually lead to metabolic bone disease or nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism (NSHP). This is similar to scoliosis in humans and leads to noticeable and painful deformities in dragons. Juveniles and gravid (pregnant) females are especially susceptible to this disease.
Bearded Dragon Calcium Overdose
Take caution not to provide too much calcium for your bearded dragon especially if you are supplying vitamin D3 supplements as well since they can overdose on calcium. Calcium overdose symptoms look similar to calcium deficiency wherein the muscles are affected first. This time, muscle calcification and hardening occurs as well as mineralization of the soft tissue. Too much calcium lowers the absorption of other minerals like zinc, iodine, phosphorus, and manganese as well as fat and protein leading to other deficiencies.
Calcium overdose (hypercalcemia) can occur with the use of too much calcium and vitamin D3 supplements and over-exposure to UVB light. A very light dusting of vitamin supplements every other day or 2-3x a week is the recommended dosage.
You should also check your tank set up and make sure that there are sufficient hiding areas for your beardie to be able to regulate its intake of UV light. As a guide, long fluorescent UV light tubes should cover only about 80% of the length of your tank, so an effective UV light gradient is achieved for your dragon to be able to move in and out of the UV light as needed.
How much calcium should you give a bearded dragon?
The recommended dosage of calcium powder is a very light dusting on your bearded dragon’s food every other day as juveniles and once a week as adults. This should be mixed with a multivitamin with beta-carotene (instead of vitamin A) and a vitamin D3 supplement once a week.
However, it’s also best to consult your veterinarian and the manufacturer instructions of your supplement to double check the dosage. For dustings, usually a small pinch is recommended.
Remember that calcium supplements can be useless without the adequate vitamin D3 or UVB light to ensure proper vitamin D3 synthesis, so make sure you take care of these aspects as well.
How do I give my bearded dragon more calcium?
Calcium is usually offered as a powdered supplement you can lightly dust on your bearded dragon’s food every other day. It’s best to dust it on vegetables or greens so the moisture can allow it to stick. You should feed your dragon the dusted food first to ensure that they’ll consume the supplement.
Calcium is usually offered as a powdered supplement you can lightly dust on your bearded dragon’s food 2-3x a week. It’s best to dust it on vegetables or greens so the moisture can allow it to stick. You should feed your dragon the dusted food first to ensure that they’ll consume the supplement. Another option is to gut load your feeder insects with a calcium supplement before feeding.
Take note that calcium supplements will only be effective with proper UVB light or additional vitamin D3 supplements to aid in its absorption.
What supplements should I give my bearded dragon?
Bearded dragons should get calcium, vitamin D3, and a multivitamin (with beta-carotene instead of vitamin A) as supplements at least once a week for good health. Growing beardies should get calcium dustings every other day or 2-3x a week. Adults can get them once a week.
It’s also good to supply vegetables rich in beta carotene and calcium such as bell peppers, carrots, and greens to your bearded dragon’s diet as a source of essential vitamins and minerals.
Can bearded dragons absorb calcium through their skin?
No, calcium is absorbed or metabolized through the diets of lizards such as bearded dragons with the help of vitamin D/vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is synthesized in the skin through the help of UVB light which is then converted into its active form in the liver and kidneys. The active form of Vitamin D3 aids in calcium metabolism.
Calcium along with vitamin D3 are essential nutrients for bearded dragons especially during their growth phase. Calcium powders help ward off illnesses and painful diseases such as metabolic bone disease which can affect your dragon if it suffers from a calcium deficiency.
However, it is important to remember that calcium powder is essentially useless without the proper UVB lighting to aid in vitamin D3 synthesis. UVB light helps your dragon synthesize Vitamin D3 which is needed for calcium metabolism. In addition, a vitamin D3 supplement can also be provided in addition to proper lighting. It’s also good to get your dragon exposed to natural sunlight now and then.
Care should be taken not to overdose as well since bearded dragons can also suffer from calcium overdose.
Guide to Feeding and Supplements
Bearded Dragons – Feeding
Explaining common myths and facts about bearded dragons
Myths and Facts about Bearded Dragon Care
Scientific article that explains bearded dragon care
Husbandry and veterinary aspects of the bearded dragon (pogona spp.) in Australia
Overview on Gut Loading
Gut Loading – an overview
A list of common diseases affecting bearded dragons
Bearded Dragons – Diseases