How many crickets to feed a bearded dragon? (Feeding Guide 101)

bearded dragon eating crickets

There is really no magic number on the number of crickets to feed in a day. But depending on the age of your bearded dragon, baby or young beardies can actually eat 50 or up to 100 crickets or more a day! And as they grow older, the number of crickets they eat will reduce. 

If you need an average figure, a baby bearded dragon below 3 months old should be fed roughly between 10 to 20 crickets for every feed, 5 times a day, making it 50 to 100 crickets in one day. 

The easiest way to feed them is to just feed them as much as they can eat within a 5 to 10 mins window.

For juvenile bearded dragons 3 to 12 months old, cut down on the number of feedings per day to 2 or 3 times. They should consume approximately 20 to 60 crickets per day. 

As for adult bearded dragons, feed them roughly about 10 to 20 crickets once a day or every 2 days. You will also have to offer them more leafy greens as their diet requirement changes. See more on their food ratio in bearded dragon diet guide here.

In the next chapter, we will zoom into step by step on how to feed your bearded dragons.

How to feed bearded dragons? Step By Step

It is relatively easy to feed bearded dragons since they are not aggressive. You can free feed bearded dragons by placing food into their bowl or hand feed them without much difficulty. This is mostly true for live feeders or insects but as for vegetables, some owners may find it difficult to get them to eat certain vitamin rich greens.

Even though their bite carry toxins that are similar to a rattlesnake venom (source), which can result in swelling and bleeding but effects are not serious in humans. 

It is also good to monitor them as they eat to make sure they finish up. If they show no interest in the food in the next 10 mins then clear out the remaining leftovers and change the portions of food. 

Let us dive deeper and look into the different ways to feed bearded dragons step by step. The first thing we must know is…

The basics of feeding bearded dragons

In general, you can offer them food adequately within a 10 to 15 minutes time frame and stop offering after that time frame or anytime once they stop eating. 

Then clear out whatever remains to prevent them from turning bad. 

For the baby dragons, they can be fed up to 2 to 3 times a day, while for adults, 1 to 2 times a day will suffice.

Measure the size of the food

NEVER ever feed anything larger than your bearded dragon’s head. Feeding food that are larger than their heads can increase the chances of problems such as impaction. (insert size image). 

Especially for live insects, you should never feed insects larger than the width between their eyes. Impaction can lead to paralysis and even death.

Important nutrient values

Take more calcium and watch out for phosphorus

The ideal calcium to phosphorus ratio is 2:1. Calcium is the number 1 nutrient you want to have to prevent metabolic bone diseases for your pet beardie. As too much phosphorus makes their bones brittle. 

Hence, gut loading or dusting (preferred) is required to maintain good amount of calcium to phosphorus ratio. See how to gut load or dust bearded dragon food below.

Avoid food with high oxalates 

You want to avoid food with high oxalates or oxalic acid unless, it has other benefits that outweigh its disadvantages. Example: 

Oxalates is an anti nutrient. Means they binds calcium and iron making them useless to the body. They are also linked to kidney stones. Hence in general, it will still better to avoid food with high oxalates

Watch out for food with high Goitrogens

3. Take note of the nutrition factors in the list of food you can find above and feed with caution. 

Dusting or Gut loading live insects for additional calcium? Which is better?

What is dusting and gut loading? 

Well, food from natural sources may not be able to provide enough calcium or vitamins that your bearded dragons need. 

So you will need to gut load or dust insects with calcium powder and vitamins to provide bearded dragons adequate nutrients.

Gut loading

Gut loading is a way to fill up the bellies of your prey or live feeder insects before feeding them to your bearded dragons. 

Pros of gut loading

  • A more natural way of feeding
  • Gut load provides a good amount of nutrients

Cons of gut loading

  • Must feed between 24 to 48 hours after gut loading. Cannot feed to early or too late.
  • Live feeders like crickets and dubia roaches are known to produce lots of waste. 

Gut loading is very suitable for those who cultivate their own insects for food. Let’s see how to do it.

How to gut load insects for your bearded dragons? 

The objective is to feed insects with nutritious food till they are fat with nutrients and offer them to your bearded dragons within 48 hours. 

Step 1: Find a suitable container – You can get a simple faunarium from exo terra or any simple container. Size doesn’t really matter, just get one that has enough space for your crickets or insects you want to gut load.

Step 2: Preparing your container – It is best to place some hideouts for the insects that you are gut loading. Egg cartons are perfect for crickets. Paper towels can also be used at the bottom of the container as a form of substrate. 

Step 3: Place insects into a container – Make sure to keep container within room temperature or above. Placing insects in temperatures that are too low can slow digestion. 

  • The ideal temperature for crickets are 80F – 85F
  • Make sure the container does not become overly humid or it can become a breeding ground for bacteria.

Step 4: Feed nutritious food to insects daily – Points to note:

  • Wash all food before feeding them to crickets or other insects.
  • Remember to always remove leftover food to prevent them from rotting in the container. 

Choice of food – Ideally, you want to feed these insects we fruits and vegetables that are nutritious. Here are some options to choose from:

  • Cabbage, 
  • All squash types 
  • Spring greens 
  • Apples
  • Potatoes 
  • Sweet potatoes

You can also feed them food with high calcium or commercial cricket food such as the following:

Food to Avoid: 

  • Grapes and raisins – Toxic to many pets including hedgehogs
  • Avocado – Toxic to reptiles

Step 5 Optional: Add additional calcium 

  • Reptiles such as bearded dragons are prone to Metabolic bone disease MBD. It is always good to add more calcium into their diet
  • This step is also optional as some believe supplement through gut loading is not as effective. 
  • Alternatively you can do dusting instead. See dusting below.

If you are planning to gut load calcium to insects, you can use the following supplements: 

Step 6: Feed gut-loaded insects to your pet

  • Note: You must always gut load insects at least 12 hours before feeding this batch of insects. 
  • Remember to remove dead insects. 

Dusting (preferred way)

Dusting is to simply place live insects into a bag or container filled with calcium vitamin powder and shake them around to coat them over it. Think shaker fries. Then feed them to your bearded dragons. This way your beardie will eat live insects along to the calcium or vitamin powder. 

Pros of dusting

  • A quick and easy method

Cons of dusting

  • Difficult to measure how much calcium is dusted. It is not possible to know if you are giving too much or too little.

How to dust insects for your bearded dragons

Gut loading is simply to feed your live feeders with calcium before feeding them to your pet beardie. Here’s how you do it: 

#1 Getting the right calcium powder and multivitamin.

There are many choices of calcium powder and vitamins that you can purchase online or from the nearest pet store. Most calcium powder also comes with vitamin D3. 

There is however, an argument that vitamin d3 isn’t as effective orally but regardless of that, there really isn’t much harm providing calcium and vitamin d3 in bearded dragon food.

You will need to purchase one with vitamin D3 and one without. 

The reason is because other multivitamin may also contain Vitamin D3 and you don’t want to over feed them with Vitamin D3. 

Here are some good options of supplements to choose from: 

#2 Prepare feeder insects for dusting

Alternative 1: Using a container

Place your feeder insects, whether they are those you just bought or those you gut loaded 12 hours ago, into another container

Do not place them into your bearded dragon cage as you will make a mess. Place them into a small container like this kritter keeper or simple plastic container that is large enough to contain your dragons and feeder insects.

Then take a spoonful of multivitamins or calcium powder into the container with feeder insects and shake it up a little.

Alternative 2: Using a zip lock bag 

Using a zip lock bag, place crickets or roaches inside with a spoonful of multivitamins or calcium powder. Then shake it up till they are coated with the powder. 

#3 Start feeding

You can offer dusted insects by placing them into another container with your bearded dragon or in the same container.

Dusting frequency

You can dust baby bearded dragon’s food with calcium powder 4 to 5 times a week but no more than once a day. For multivitamin, feed baby dragons 2 to 3 times a week. 

As for adult bearded dragons, you should dust their food at least 3 times a week and multivitamin once a week. 

How to feed baby bearded dragons crickets and roaches?

Baby bearded dragons are dragons anywhere from newborn to about 4 or 5 months old. 

Size measurement of a baby bearded dragon:

Length (Inches) | Age (Months)

  • Between 3 inches to 4 inches is approximately 0 to 1 months old
  • Between 5 inches to 9 inches is approximately 2 months old
  • Between 8 inches to 11 inches is approximately 3 months old
  • Between 9 inches to 12 inches is approximately 4 months old
  • Between 11 inches to 16 inches is approximately 5 months old

(Measurements are based on estimates. They are no guarantee in accuracy)

At this stage, they are very fragile and will require lots of nutrition and vitamins to grow up strong. 

Lack of nutrients will lead to metabolic bone diseases as they mature. So make sure to stick to their required diet mix. Which mainly consist of 60% to 70% protein and 20% to 30% greens. 

Food preparation for baby bearded dragons

At this stage, it will be good to prepare their meals and hand feed your baby dragons. Never feed any live feeders that are larger than the width of their eyes. 

As younger bearded dragons tend to have a larger appetite, they will devour any live insects they see regardless of their size. 

So it is imperative to offer smaller size prey. Or this can result in impaction and worst case, death. 

As for live feeders, baby pinhead crickets that are no more than ½ an inch will be a great option. 

Newborn dubia roaches that are about ¼ inch also make a great alternative for baby bearded dragon since they have soft exoskeleton.  

Phoenix worms or nutri grubs are also an excellent option for baby dragons. With it’s soft body and high calcium, little dusting is required. 

Other insects that are suitable for baby bearded dragons are small fruit files or wax worms that are smaller than the width of bearded dragon’s eyes.

But you must be wondering. What about mealworms?

Mealworms is a well known treat that bearded dragons love dearly. However, for baby bearded dragons, it is recommended to AVOID mealworms altogether. This is due to their tougher exoskeleton. 

Baby bearded dragon feeding frequency

Baby bearded dragon should be fed more frequently in smaller quantities for every feed as they have higher metabolism levels.  

There is no actual gauge to how much you should feed per day as there isn’t really a “correct” or exact amount. It will take some time to gauge how much your dragons can eat but beware not to overfeed baby dragon as they can become over weight. 

You can generally stick to feeding live insects for about 3 to 5 times per day. As for vegetables, feed them leafy greens at least 3 to 4 times per week. This will get them attuned to the taste of vegetables. 

How to feed juvenile or young adult bearded dragons?

Bearded dragons from 5 months to about 18 months can be considered as juvenile or young adult. They are considered an adult once they become sexually mature. 

This can take place between 8 months to 12 months of age and it is also the time when you will be able to differentiate their gender. Learn how to differentiate their genders.

Their size can get anywhere between 11 inches to 24 inches. Once again there are no 100% accuracy in size to age measurement. So it should not be taken seriously but just used as an estimate. 

At this stage, their diet mix will start to change. Feeding frequencies will also start to reduce. 

Since they have built up enough fats and body mass, you definitely want to start cutting back on insects that are high in fats and replace them with more greens. 

The diet ratio you should try to achieve is close to a 50:50 split between protein and greens. You can also do a 60% protein and 40% green diet if it remains difficult to feed them greens. 

At this stage you can start to feed them food from a bowl or carry on hand feeding. Alternatively, you can create a dig box for feeding. I will still recommend to prepare bite size meals to prevent impaction. 

Same rules apply, never feed them food larger than the width of their eyes. 

You can also start to feed mealworms as treats. Remember to cut back on the feeding frequency or they will turn obese and result in many health issues later on. 

Juvenile dragon feeding frequency

A good estimate you can start off is to feed live insects once or twice per day depending on portion. Similarly for leafy greens, you can feed once or twice per day for up to 4 to 5 times a week. 

How to feed adult or aged bearded dragons?

Bearded dragons are considered a full grown adult after 18 months. From 18 months and onwards, their ratio between protein and greens will start to change as well. 

Similar to bearded dragons of juvenile age, you can free feed by placing food on their bowl or hand feed them. But I will suggest you to free feed and watch them eat, then remove whatever that is left. 

Feeding frequency for adult bearded dragons

Depending on their weight, you can still keep the 50/50 diet ratio between greens and protein. But you can start increasing the amounts of greens to at least once a day and protein to once every other day.

Completecritter.com has provided a good example for feeding adult bearded dragons here:

bearded dragon diet plan

Based on the image, you can feed greens daily. 

Followed by feeding live insects 6 times a week. 

Then you may also include other vegetables 4 times a week to keep up with vitamins and get your pet attuned to a wider variety of food. 

For supplements such as vitamins and calcium can be fed probably 3 to 4 times a week. 

And lastly, fruits as a treat to be fed once a week to avoid diarrhoea. Other treats such as wax worms or butterworms that are high in fat can also be in this category. 

There are also rare occasional treats like pinky mice can and must only be fed once a month. Although I won’t recommend you to feed pinky mice if you do not know what you are doing. 

How to feed bearded dragons live insects without making a mess in your terrarium?

Cleaning after your bearded dragons can become a hassle, especially dusted crickets where they can easily escape and leave behind a trail of dusty powdered vitamins. Here are a few ways simple that you can feed your bearded dragon without making a mess. 

#1 Feeding Using a mini tweezer or directly hand feeding your bearded dragon is the simplest way to avoid making a mess. 

#2 Placing dusted insects and your pet beardie into another enclosure or container. A simple plastic container like this will suffice. You can also reuse the container that you use for dusting. 

#3 Using a feeding rock from Exo Terra. A feeding rock provides and stimulates a natural feeding behaviour and at the same time without making a mess. 

How to feed bearded dragons leafy greens and vegetables they absolutely hate?

Bearded dragons can be picky eaters. Some bearded dragons may also get used to eating a full protein diet at a young age that they find it difficult to eat greens and vegetables. So here are some tips that you might find useful. 

#1 Start young

If your bearded dragon is still young, it is good to start introducing a diet mix with both protein and vegetables. Starting a proper diet early will help your beardie get accustomed to vegetables and transit to greens easily later on. 

Protip

Offer colorful vegetables in smaller pieces. This will help juvenile beardies to go for them instead.

#2 Offering Vegetables before protein 

Another way is to make it a habit to always offer your beardie vegetables first before any live insects. If you offer them insects first, they might not have the stomach anything else hence lowering your chances for them to eat those vegetables. So make sure you offer vegetables first when they are really hungry. 

#3 Mixing vegetables with treats

You can trick your pet beardie to eat vegetables by offering treats such as wax worms or mealworms together with vegetables. As they take a munch at those treats, they will gobble up some vegetables along the way. 

You can place treats on top of vegetables or hide them within. You can also offer chopped vegetables and mix with those treats. 

Protip

Mix up chopped vegetables with treats and dust them together before offering it in a feeding bowl to your beardie. This might help trick them to eat both vegetables and treats together.  

#4 Offer fruits with vegetables 

Colors and taste of fruits can be more enticing to bearded dragons as compared to vegetables. You try offering them fruits with vegetables first and slowly transit to a higher greens intake.

Conclusion

Apart from crickets, there are many other nutritious live insects and greens that you can feed your bearded dragons with. You should always try out different mixes of greens and protein to make sure your beardie gets used to different food. 

Check out our Complete bearded dragon food and diet guide for more information on their diet and nutrition.

Let us know what is your favourite diet mix for your bearded dragons in the comments below.

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