Originally Answered: Are there other kinds of food that can be feed to young bearded dragons that would take the place of live food
Feeding your Bearded Dragon will require handling bugs. Yes, we said BUGS... Crickets, mealworms, wax worms, oh! And possibly pinkies. Bearded Dragons are omnivores, meaning that they will eat veggies and small animals. Insects should be a daily staple of your Dragons diet and greens should be available at all times.
The size of the food items you feed your Dragon is extremely important. All food that is offered should be smaller in width than the Dragons mouth. Use caution in choosing the insect size, as too large of a cricket can cause health problems (ie. - blockage) while digesting. The same applies with mealworms, use small mealworms for small dragons, and increase the mealworm size as the dragons size increases. A hatchling, up to 2 months will eat mostly insects, picking at finely chopped greens here and there.
2 week old crickets (3/8 inch in size) should be offered 2 - 3 feedings a day, only in the amount that the dragon will eat at one feeding.. A juvenile Dragon (2 - 4 months) will eat approximately 20% greens to 80% insects... 3 week old crickets should be given 2 times daily and small (1/2 inch) mealworms can be added to their diet. 4 months to maturity should be fed approximately 4 week old crickets once or twice daily. The small mealies may be replaced by larger ones and king mealworms may also be added. Pinky mice can also be added to their diet once a week, depending on the size of the dragon. Adult dragons need to be fed adult crickets, king mealworms... once a day or every other day. Pinky mice, if used, should be fed sparingly - unless feeding a gravid adult.
Bearded dragons are voracious eaters, especially when they are young. If you aren't feeding the hatchlings enough, and if they have cage-mates, they will nibble toes and tail-tips - if it moves, its food. If your dragons aren't eating well, something is possibly wrong. The most likely problem is that the cage temperature is incorrect: their bodies must reach high temperatures in order to digest their food. If they are digesting slowly, they wont eat well. First step - Check Temp.
Crickets and mealworms are readily available at most pet shops. These crickets and mealies are generally not high in nutrients directly from the pet shop and will need to be fed well (GutLoad, baby cereal, fresh fruit & veggies) before being offered to your Dragon. This is called 'gutloading'. I recommend 'gutloading' crickets for 24 hours before feeding. We use an orange, carrot and a potato for moisture, and a mixture of baby cereal and Gutload for nutrients.
There is a huge selection of 'leafy' greens which are high in calcium to feed your Dragon, some of which are... kale, arugula, collard & mustard greens, parsley, dandelion greens and flowers, endives, radish, carrot and turnip tops, escarole and chicory endive. For more of a variety, mixed into the greens may be many other veggies such as squash, corn, peas, carrots (shredded), sweet potato, cucumber, zucchini, green peppers, chard... also chopped fruit such as cantaloupe, apple, blueberries, peaches, pears, grapes, plums, raspberries... all chopped finely to avoid choking. The main idea in their diet is variety.**Do not feed your dragons iceburg lettuce as is has very little nutritional value and may give the dragon the 'runs' - prompting dehydration.
Dragons will also munch on other greens. If you take your dragon outside or allow it to roam about the house - please be sure to check that the possible munchies are not poisonous.
USDA Nutrient DataBase for Standard Reference
The Toxicity of Plants
Edible and Harmful Plants
The "G" List
Another 'must' for Beardies is a Calcium supplement - We use Rep-Cal Calcium - with Vitamin D3 and occasionally Miner-All. The dust can be placed into a baggie and crickets 'shake -n- baked' in it before feeding... and the liquid can be sprayed onto their greens. The form of the calcium is a preference, but its presence is definitely a must. At least 1 feeding every other day should be calcium supplemented. **One day a week, we supplement with a multivitamin such as Herptivite. Caution should be exercised when using a multi-vitamin supplement, as reptiles are susceptible to vitamin A toxicity.
A Preliminary Feeding Study in Bearded Dragon Lizards
Bearded dragons require a dry cage, but need to get a lot of water from sprayings and eating fresh vegetables. The hatchlings should be sprayed twice daily on their heads, keeping the spray directed onto their heads as long as they keep lapping up the water. Adults should be sprayed a few times a week. This simulates the natural way dragons get water by licking up drops of dew they find on plants in the morning. Some do learn to drink from a shallow water pan, but if they get thin or dehydrated it will be necessary to get them to ingest more water by increased spraying and by misting their fresh vegetables. If using a water dish, the water MUST be changed daily and if the dish has been defecated in - it must be cleaned immediately.
Lighting and Heating -
Proper lighting is also very important to the well-being of a Bearded Dragon. A good split of day/night is 14/10. This can easily be regulated by a timer, which can be found at almost any hardware store. ((not only is it better for the Dragon... its much easier on the caregiver. :)) A basking spot is also a must for a Beardie. The Dragons body temperatures are important for digestion and fighting off illness.
A low watt bulb, placed in a reflector dome at one end of the cage, will concentrate the bulbs heat to that one side of the cage. The top basking area on one side of the cage (closest to the light) should reach between 105 - 115 degrees for adults and 110 - 120 for babies - with the ambient cage temperature on the other side of the cage being significantly cooler - approximately 80-85 degrees. This basking temperature may seem high, but these temperatures are common of the ground surface when air temperatures are over 85 degrees. (yes, this can be tricky... but that's where cage accessories come in handy.)
The nighttime temperature of your cage can drop into the 60's without worry. If your house gets cooler than that, you may need to invest in a red bulb for nighttime temperature maintenance. This will emit the heat needed to keep the temp up, but not the light that will interrupt the dragons sleep pattern. WARNING - Do not use an electrical reptile heat rock or heating pad as a heat source for your Bearded Dragons. Thes products have the potential to fatally burn the dragon's belly, as many lizards do not feel a 'localized' temperature... but an overall body temperature. (See Thermal Burns below)
The need for a full spectrum florescent reptile light is among those topics being disputed between Hobbyists at the moment. Dragons DO need a source of UVB light to naturally produce vitamin D3, (which helps to absorb calcium) and without a steady supply of it, are more subject to complications. This can be obtained by a bulb or by subjecting your Dragon to natural sunlight for a period of time each day. Many people think that by placing the vivarium near a window and allowing the reptile to bask in the sun will help. This is not so. Normal plate glass as used in windows and vivariums will actually filter out the ultra-violet rays that are required to synthesise natural vitamin D3.
If choosing to use a full spectrum light, the bulb should be within 6-10 inches of the basking area, so they can absorb the UV-A and UV-B to manufacture their vitamin D3 for bone formation. These bulbs need to be replaced after 6 months time. Once again, it is not vital AS LONG AS there is proper supplementation in their diet and enough light intensity.
We feel UVB indoor lights are not needed if dragons are fed a proper diet; and supplemented with Vitamin D3. A calcium/D3 supplement, like RepCal can be used in place of the UVB bulb. The dragon still received its needed Vitamin D3, but instead of producing it itself, it is given dietarily.