One of the most common questions I get from new owners is what greens can bearded dragons eat?
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- Benefits of feeding greens
- 5 best greens for daily consumption
- 5 best greens for occasional feeding
- What to do if your dragon won’t eat greens?
It’s essential to ensure they receive a balanced and nutritious diet. This is especially true regarding their greens, as they are essential to a bearded dragon’s diet. Each green has its own unique nutritional benefits! We’ll look at the best greens to feed your bearded dragon on a daily and occasional basis.
Bearded Dragon Greens Feeding Chart
|Hatchlings||Daily mix of greens + live food daily|
|Juvenile (2-6 Months)||Daily mix of greens + live food every other day|
|Adult||Daily or every other day + live food 2-3x per week|
Best Greens For Bearded Dragons: Daily Consumption
Dandelions are a great choice for a bearded dragon’s diet as they are nutritionally beneficial for several reasons.
- Dandelions are a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, and K, as well as calcium, fiber, and iron.
- Dandelions are low in phosphorus and high in calcium, making them an ideal food for maintaining a healthy calcium-to-phosphorus ratio. We can see the ratio of calcium to phosphorus for dandelions as 5:1, 5 times as much calcium which is fantastic!
Dandelion Feeding Tip: To safely feed dandelion we must talk about sourcing it, as you will most likely need to collect it from the wild! This is ok, so long as you follow a process.
Collect it from somewhere safe, far from pesticide use, if possible away from pollutants such as beside a busy road, and finally, avoid routes where pets like dogs might have urinated on them!
Lastly thoroughly wash them off with tap water & offer whole to adults, they can be torn up a bit for younger dragons.
Arugula (sometimes referred to as Rocket) is a great choice for a bearded dragon’s diet due to its high nutritional value.
Arugula is a leafy green rich in vitamins and minerals similar to Dandelion, including vitamins A, C, and K, as well as calcium, fiber, and iron. In terms of the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio, arugula is quite balanced, making it a suitable food for bearded dragons.
Arugula has a calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of approximately 1:1, making it a good choice to support a healthy diet. However, it’s important to note that while arugula can provide a significant source of nutrients, it should not be the only food offered to bearded dragons, a range is always key!
Arugula Feeding Tip: Arugula is an easy to prep and feed green, I would always ensure to wash it due to the small risk of pesticide use. Otherwise, this can be offered whole or loosely chopped (not diced up tiny!).
Mustard greens are a nutritious feed for bearded dragons because they especially contain a good amount dietary fiber. They are a rich source of vitamins A, C, K, and B6, as well as minerals such as iron, calcium, and magnesium.
Mustard greens have a calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of about 1:1, which is relatively balanced like arugula, so once again this can be used often, so long as it is part of a wider diet!
Mustard Greens Feeding Tip: Mustard greens can be a little larger than arugula, sometimes with thicker stems, so I would make sure to appropriately cut this up so that your dragon does not choke. From wild observations, we can see that dragons tend to focus on softer leafy veg & flowers!
Chicory greens are a nutritious option for bearded dragons. These greens contain vitamins A, C, and K, & minerals such as calcium, iron, and potassium. Their calcium-to-phosphorus ratio is 1:3, which might seem inappropriate with what we have learned, but it isn’t as bad as other options!
Chicory Greens Feeding Tip: So use this as part of a mixed feed offering, the way chicory is shaped lends well to cutting it into appropriately sized slices, & offering the smaller leaves whole.
Plantain leaves are a nutritious option for bearded dragons as they are a good source of vitamins and minerals. These leaves contain the same nutrients & minerals as chicory & arugula. Plantain leaves have a calcium-phosphorus ratio of 1:1, so can be used quite often alongside a wide range of other greens.
Plantain Leaves Feeding Tip: Depending on the age of the dragon, these can be provided whole or chopped into smaller pieces or slices & mixed into a bowl of other greens!
Best Bearded Dragon Greens: Occasional Consumption
Occasional consumption means feeding these greens once or twice per week alongside the daily greens listed above.
Kale is a leafy green vegetable that should only be fed to bearded dragons occasionally because it is high in oxalates. Oxalates are compounds found in certain plants that can bind with calcium and reduce its absorption in the body. Feeding too much can lead to a calcium deficiency, leading to health problems such as metabolic bone disease.
Kale Feeding Tip: Due to the shape of kale, I would recommend chopping it into smaller chunks & slices appropriate to the size of the dragon.
Spinach similarly to kale, is leafy and has higher amounts of phosphorus & oxalates so would be best fed occasionally every few feeds, or in small amounts.
Spinach Feeding Tip: Spinach comes as easy-to-serve leaves, so these can usually be fed whole, except for hatchlings or young juveniles, where it should be chopped up or only smaller leaves offered.
Broccoli is also as nutritious as the above greens, however there are a couple of reasons to keep it to occasional feeding, firstly it is also high in oxalates, secondly it is known as a cruciferous vegetable meaning it is associated with problems such as gas & bloating.
Broccoli Feeding Tip: A fantastic way to prepare broccoli is to cut the heads of the florets thinly, leaving you with tiny bits that you can easily mix throughout a larger veg feed!
Like broccoli, brussels sprouts are a type of cruciferous vegetable that should only be fed to bearded dragons occasionally. They contain high levels of oxalates, which can bind to calcium in the digestive tract and prevent its absorption.
Brussels Sprouts Feeding Tip: Never feed brussels sprouts whole as they present a significant choking risk, what you can do it cut off the base of the sprout, then either chop the rest or separate the smaller leaves to spead into a veg feed.
Bok choy, also known as Chinese cabbage, is a type of leafy green vegetable that can be fed to beardies as part of a balanced diet. However, like other greens, it should not be the main staple food and should only be fed occasionally due to very high oxalates.
Bok Choi Feeding Tip: Bok choi is fun to feed as you have two parts to offer, the whiter base of the green can be finely chopped up and mixed into veg feeds, and the green leaves can be offered whole or ripped into appropriate sizes.
Benefits Of Feeding Greens To Your Beardie
The problem of live food
One of the biggest problems I have seen in lizard care, especially bearded dragons, is the overuse of live foods such as crickets, locusts, mealworms & morioworms/superworms.
The issue here is that these insects are not very similar to the insects bearded dragons hunt in the wild, and the amounts we tend to feed are way higher than what they would find in the wild!
One of the most important benefits of feeding greens to bearded dragons is hydration. Bearded dragons are mostly desert dwellers and a lack of water sources characterizes their natural habitat. By providing your bearded dragon with various greens, you can ensure that they get the hydration they need to stay healthy and active.
The moisture content in greens can help to hydrate your pet and prevent dehydration & common problems like impaction.
Additionally, providing your bearded dragon with a water dish for drinking is important, but the greens in their diet can provide an extra source of hydration. Keeping your bearded dragon hydrated is crucial for their overall health and well-being, so be sure to include a variety of greens in their diet to support their hydration needs.
While many hobbyists will claim that bearded dragons don’t use water bowls, or obtain all of their moisture from food, the truth is rather different!
Wild observations have shown that they do enter temporary & permanent water sources to hydrate, and one of their most common ways is waiting for the morning dew, which is air moisture condensing onto spinifex grass & other plants, then lapping this up! Deserts are wetter than we assume!
Control of nutrition
Bearded dragons are omnivores and require a balanced diet that includes both plant and animal matter. Greens provide a wealth of vitamins and minerals that are crucial for your bearded dragon’s health. By providing a variety of greens, you can ensure that your bearded dragon gets all the nutrients they need to grow, develop, and thrive.
Control of calcium, phosphorus & oxalate amounts
When it comes to feeding greens to bearded dragons, it’s important to consider the levels of calcium, phosphorus & oxalates in the greens you provide.
Phosphorus and calcium are two minerals that are essential for a bearded dragon’s health, but the ratio between the two is just as important. An imbalanced ratio can lead to health problems like metabolic bone disease. Oxalates are compounds found in some greens that can interfere with the absorption of calcium, so it’s important to choose greens that are low in oxalates.
Working out the ratios of these minerals seems complex, but the work has already been done! What you need to know is how those ratios work.
If a ratio says 1 to 1 or 1:1 ratio of calcium to phosphorus, this means that there is about the same amount of each mineral in the food.
We want to find foods with more calcium than phosphorus. So 3:1 calcium to phosphorus tells us that there’s 3 times the amount of calcium – fantastic!
A better understanding of wild ecology
One of the biggest & most damaging mistakes bearded dragon keepers tend to make in my experience, is not looking at how these wonderful animals actually live in the wild.
We humans are so likely to make assumptions or take the first answer we find online as gospel when the truth may be much different! It is best, where possible, to rely on wild observations & apply those to our husbandry if possible. You may see the emphasis on this quite a lot in this article!
Bearded Dragon Not Eating Greens?
If a bearded dragon is refusing to eat vegetables, there are a few things you can try to encourage them to start eating again:
- Variety: Offer a variety of vegetables to see if your bearded dragon will eat something different. Reptiles can show boredom when certain foods are offered too often; consider shaking this up & offering a range, keeping in mind what we have discussed above!
- Presentation: Experiment with the way the greens are presented to the bearded dragon. Some bearded dragons prefer their greens chopped, while others may prefer them whole.
- Supplementation: If your bearded dragon is not getting enough nutrients from their diet, you can try supplementing their food with a multivitamin powder or a calcium supplement.
- Nothing: If your dragon is an adult, this can be completely normal. I have read in published research that dragons are most likely to eat well in early spring, reducing gradually & refusing entire feeds by midsummer & autumn, this actually makes perfect sense if we look at their wild ecology! So long as the dragon is not dropping weight or losing condition this should not be concerning as they prepare for brumation.
It’s essential to be patient when trying to encourage a bearded dragon to eat.
If your bearded dragon continues to refuse food, significantly drops weight or shows signs of illness, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian who specializes in reptiles!
How often should I feed my bearded dragon greens?
The most important thing I believe you should keep in mind when working out how often to feed is the life stage of your dragon & the amount of live food offered!
Hatchling: Daily with a mix of appropriately chosen greens and daily appropriately sized live food with supplements.
Juvenile: (~2-6 months), daily greens can continue, but avoid overfeeding insects here! Reduce insect feeds to every other day at the later stage of a juvenile’s life.
Adult: Daily greens can still continue, sometimes skipping to every other day. Place a huge focus once again on not overfeeding live foods!
Are any greens toxic to bearded dragons?
While many greens are nutritious for bearded dragons, some types of greens can be toxic and should be avoided. These include:
Rhubarb: The leaves of this plant contain oxalic acid, which can be toxic to reptiles and cause kidney damage.
Nightshade plants: These plants, which include tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers, contain solanine, a toxic alkaloid that can cause digestive upset, weakness, and even death.
Avocado: Avocados contain persin, a fungicidal toxin that can cause digestive upset and potentially other harmful effects in reptiles.
Brassica family plants: These plants, which include kale, collard greens, and broccoli, contain goitrogens, compounds that can interfere with thyroid function. They should be fed in moderation.