Essential basics for feeding bearded dragons
How much to feed
Feeding bearded dragons is relatively simple when it comes to overall diet quantity, but not as simple as “how many crickets do I feed my bearded dragon?”. There are many factors which come into play including age, environment, time of year, current weight and biological state (such as gravid). As a guide, feed bearded dragons 10% of their weight (or ideal weight). Complete accuracy is not required.
There will be days where it will not eat at all, sometimes not as much as others and days when it will want more. Be flexible and adjust as required to suit the needs at the time, ie., rapidly growing, gravid, shedding, brumation and so on. Providing controlled food portions with flexibility over quantity is necessary for good care, excessive feeding is not.
When to feed
For reptiles the right temperature is very important for the digestion of food. If the temperature is too low it will adversely affect its ability to process the food and could result in malnutrition if temperatures the conditions persist.
Feeding is best mid morning when the bearded dragon has warmed up and is at peak activity. For feeds later in the day allow for at least a couple of hours before the heat is turned down for the night for digestion to commence. Spreading the feeding out during the day into a few meals rather than main meals will provide for more natural behavior.
Vegetation or insects
As adults bearded dragons are omnivores and should be fed mostly vegetation, somewhere around 80-90% of the diet. The gut contents of their wild counterparts have been found to be mostly vegetation, as the high 90% range with only the odd insects (mostly ants) consumed (Wotherspoon 2007). In fact some ate so few insects it was thought their consumption of insects was by accident picked up while eating vegetation.
This is not the same for the young who require the majority of their diet to be in the arthropod family, typically insects. Juveniles do not need vegetation, they are still insectivores at this age. They do not become complete omnivores until pre-adulthood or entering their 2nd year of life.