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Keeping Reptiles Newsletter
 Issue 15  
July, 2005
Bearded Dragon Diet
In this Issue

by Richard Adams

Bearded dragons are omnivorous - that is to say that they eat both meat and plant matter.

The wild diet of bearded dragons includes a wide variety of bugs and insects caught as well as berries, fruit and leaves.

In captivity we aim to mirror this as closely as possible, and provide as varied a diet as possible to get as close as possible to eliminating nutrient deficiencies.

Unlike iguanas, which need lots of live food to start off with, then slowly phase over to an almost totally vegetarian diet as adults, the mixture is important in bearded dragons and even adults should be fed live food.

Let's take a look at some of the available bearded dragon food:

Crickets - an ideal live food which you should look on as a staple ingredient. They are fast moving which helps to stimulate the bearded dragon to feed (but also means you'll have a job on if you lose one in the house!). They are highly nutritious, particularly if you feed them with Calcium Plus which helps to fill the crickets with even more goodness.

They are also easy to breed if so want to do (as I do) and cut down down on your feeding bill, and also have a range of different sized crickets available for different sized reptiles.

If you don't want to breed them they are easy and cheap to get hold of from most reptile suppliers, and can even be ordered online here.

Locusts - have a thinner skin (cuticle) than crickets and are larger so contain even more nutrients. They are ideally suited to larger lizards for whom feeding crickets can become quite expensive unless you breed your own.

Unlike crickets which can be kept at room temperature (though additional heat is beneficial if you decide to breed them) locusts will not live long at room temperature.

Coming as they do from desert areas themselves, locusts require similar temperatures to bearded dragons to live for any period of time - 30-40'C is ideal.

So either set up an extra glass tank to keep a reservoir of locusts in, or only buy a few at a time, and make regular orders so that you don't lose many from each batch.

These too should be looked on as a staple in the diet.

Mealworms - these are beetle grubs, ideal for hand feeding. They do however have a thick skin reinforced with chitin (a protein) to make their shells strong and protect them.

With this in mind they are not as nutritious as the other two species above and so should only be fed in moderation.

I save them solely for the purposes of hand feeding as I find them the easiest thing to hand feed.

On the upside they are very easy to breed in the home and you can store a tub in the refrigerator for some weeks.

There they will lie dormant, and when you want some you can simply retrieve a handful from the fridge and give them a few minutes to warm up and become active. Again they are easy to get hold of.

Other Live foods - there are quite a variety of live foods available these days including waxworms, giant mealworms, maggots, fruit flies and more. I buy some of these more unusual live foods from time to time to supplement my reptile's diets and add variety though I look on the above 3 varieties as the staples of the live food diet.

Meat - some bearded dragons will take raw meat such as beef mince or chicken breast. Beef is high in fat so should only be given in small amounts but it makes life pretty easy for you if you can get your lizard to take part of it's food as raw meat.

Fruit - just about any fruit suitable for humans will do for your bearded dragon so long as it is finally diced. Popular fruits include apples, pear, grapes and banana.

Vegetables - same as above. Lettuce, cabbage, grated carrot, chopped courgette, broccoli etc.

Other Plant Matter - other bearded dragon foods can include nasturtium flowers, courgette flowers, dandelion leaves and watercress.

Artificial Bearded Dragon Diets - there are now a range of dried bearded dragon foods that like dried dog food you can feed straight from the tub. Bearded dragons shouldn't be given cat or dog food due to the differences in nutritional requirements and the often high levels of salt and fat in cat and dog foods to make it more palatable.

Richard Adams is a zoologist and reptile fanatic, and as well as having worked on wildlife documentaries, edited books and bred a variety of exotic species he now runs . Visit today for your FREE reptile-care ebook...

Handling Lizards - Part 3

By Christina Miller -

What To Do If You Get Bitten

What first should be understood, is that if you have been bitten, it is more than likely your own fault. Most lizards will give plenty of warning before biting (by hissing, gaping, lunging, tail whipping, etc.), or you may have been causing pain, provoking an attack.

Defensive bites will usually occur if the lizard feels threatened, and if you have ignored all of their previous attempts to frighten you off. These are typically quick strikes, the lizard will not hold on. These bites can be avoided by understanding your lizard's body language (biting and fighting really is their last resort, with the exception of very aggressive species or individuals), and by not disturbing the lizard at certain key times: During feeding, shedding, or while the animal is sleeping (how would you feel if some giant plucked you up out of your comfortable napping spot?). However, if you smell like the lizard's prey (take into consideration what your lizard eats! Rodents? Birds? Other reptiles?), or if you have made movements resembling prey (for example, wiggling your fingers), the lizard may bite and hold on- It thinks you're food!

It the lizard's jaws are latched onto you and it will not let go, do NOT hit the lizard. This will only be perceived as an attack, and will provoke more aggression or fear-aggression. Also, do not try to pull away, this will only tear your flesh and risk damage to the lizard's mouth. To get a lizard to let go, you can dab a cloth with a bit of rubbing alcohol, and waft it near the animal's nostrils (no closer than a few centimeters). Do NOT get any alcohol into its nostrils or mouth! The strong od our should prompt the lizard into releasing its grip. Similarly, you could drop a tiny amount of vinegar or consumable alcohol (NOT rubbing alcohol) into the lizard's mouth. If neither of these options are available or practical to you while you're being bitten, tipping the lizard upside down (while still supporting its body!) may disorient the animal and make it let go. The lizard may let go on its own, if it realizes that it made a mistake, and that you are not actually prey.

Once the lizard lets go, either place it back into its cage if it is very stressed. If it is particularly aggressive and you are certain the animal is not very stressed, putting the lizard back into its enclosure may teach it that biting means you will leave it alone! After any bite, be certain to properly clean the wound with an antiseptic, and remove any embedded teeth your pet may have left behind. The only bites you should really be worried about are those from large lizards, that may require stitches. Bites from smaller animals typically do not require a doctor's attention, and are usually not very painful.


Bartlett, R.D. and Bartlett, P. 1997. Lizard Care from A to Z. New York: Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

Jenkins, J.R. 1996. "Diagnostic and Clinical Techniques." In: Mader, D.R. (ed.), Reptile Medicine and Surgery. Philadelphia: WB Saunders Company.

Kaplan, M. 1997. "Handling Reptiles." (

Christina has always been interested in animals, but at nine years old discovered reptiles and amphibians to be the most intriguing. For her tenth birthday she received two Gekko
ulikovvski, or golden geckos. Since then, she has moved her way around the reptile and amphibian kingdoms, now owning seven herps.

Christina studies animal health (veterinary) technology at Vanier College and is in the process of writing a detailed book about the care of leopard geckos

In the News...

Turtles in the news ...some of it good, much of it not so good.

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Websites to check out...

I'm sure most of you will have heard of Melissa Kaplan's but if you haven't, check it out. Melissa has been working on her site for quite a few years now and it is one of the definitive web sites for herp keepers and carers. Her research is meticulous and she maintains a huge repository of information.

If you have a great website, or even a not so great one, that you found with some useful information, let me know so we can tell others.

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Feedback and Updating

A few minor issues with some downloads occurred recently and I apologize to those who were effected. It was no doubt user error on my part when I was doing some site maintenance.

I would appreciate any feedback, good and bad about making your own reptile cages. I am looking for information, constructive criticism and ideas.

These could include things like:
bearded dragon care What sort of additions would you like to see made eg making vivariums, wooden cages for Iguanas, making a cage stand etc ?
bearded dragon care How could the reptile cages be improved further?
bearded dragon habitat What are you particularly proud of?
bearded dragon habitat What worked well for you?
bearded dragon information What did not work well?
bearded dragon information What was difficult and how you got around it
bearded dragon diet Requests and ideas for future reptile cage plans eg "How to make a reptile cage stand"
bearded dragon diet Any other suggestions for improvements or alterations that would benefit future builders of reptile cages

In particular I will soon be documenting the arboreal cage building process but I do intend to review as much as possible, hopefully based on user feedback as much as anything else.

I would also appreciate any pictures you have of your cages - using my plans or otherwise (we're all in this for fun and enjoyment so share away), so we can start to build a gallery of snake, iguana and other reptile cages of different varieties. This would be particularly useful as while many people like to show their pets in photos, not many pictures show the enclosures and I know that many people are interested in seeing how others have set up their reptile cages in order to get ideas.

I believe the collective pool of knowledge and skills we have can allow these plans to improve on a continuous basis.

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We would love to hear what you think of this (or any other) issue of Keeping Reptiles.

And of course, if you have any suggestions for upcoming issues that you'd like to share with us, please send those, too!

These could include:

  • Great herp web-sites
  • Why you pet reptile is fantastic
  • Funny things that happened
  • Dumb**s things that happened
  • Images you'd like to share.

Remember - there are lots of people who would love to hear your stories. Just e-mail me at: Reptile-Cage-Plans

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